Anger in Children: Changing the Conversation

Defiant. Resistant. Out-of-control. Detached. Uncaring. Disobedient. These are the words we use to describe an angry child. Confused. Overwhelmed. Sad. Shameful. Frustrated. Afraid. These are the words we should be using to describe an angry child.

Want to change anger in children? Lets start by changing the conversation.

Anger in children is becoming more and more prevalent. We are seeing higher rates of defiance in schools, cyberbullying, violence, and issues at home. These statistics have left many in a crisis stating, “what can I do to help my child?”  The solution: Change the conversation.

At Anger Management U, we believe that anger is normal. We focus our work around changing how children express and manage their anger, not the actual emotion itself.

To start, when you are with your child, begin by teaching them that they don’t have to feel shameful about experiencing anger. Express to them that anger is normal, and it is within their control to make a good choice when they feel angry. Next, make a list of healthy ways to relieve feelings of anger. Make sure this list is specific and comfortable for your child. In our workbook, Training Your Anger Monster, we offer many suggestions of healthy ways to relieve anger for children.

Another great way to change the conversation is to help them uncover the “buried” emotion that is underneath their anger. Anger is almost always paired with another emotion. Because anger is so fast and strong, it often overpowers other emotions. Taking the time to work with your child to identify the other emotions they are feeling will empower them to talk about their actual emotions. When children talk about their emotions, and feel supported in doing so, they are less likely to act out in anger or rage.

You can also teach your child the statement “I feel ______ (emotion).” Practice this statement regularly. Ask questions like “How did you feel when you got that pop quiz at school today” or “How do you feel right now” in order to build emotion recognition and language. When your child is angry, if you practice enough, they will be able to then use this skill to talk about what they are feeling. By talking about emotions, you will minimize isolation, increase communication skills, and decrease frustration. You will also build a healthier relationship with your child. Lastly, when the problem is clear, you can work with your child to identify quick solutions to the problem,.

Lastly, and most importantly, take the blame and shame out of anger. There is nothing worse than labeling a child as angry, defiant, resistant, out-of-control, or more. Children often feel shameful about how they behave when they act out, even if they don’t directly show it. They also struggle with the constant criticism and negative feedback that result from impulsive decision-making. This can severely hinder self-esteem and can make children feel isolated and helpless.

Instead, empower your child to understand that there are healthy ways to manage anger. Let them know that they are not defined by their anger, and that this behavior can be unlearned. Make sure to give positive feedback when you see your child appropriately handle anger. Furthermore, remind them that you know they are working hard to make changes, and that you are excited to continue to help them make these changes.

If you want more information about anger, or practical skills/tools to utilize with your child, you can check out our children’s anger management workbook here.

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